A Time for Nourishment
There is nourishment like bread that feeds one part of your life and nourishment like light for another. There are many rules about restraint with the former, but only one rule for the latter, Never be satisfied. Eat and drink the soul substance, as a wick does with the oil it soaks in. Give light to the company. ~ Rumi
I am sitting outdoors in my cousin sister’s house in this pretty corner of northern California called Pleasant Hill, soaking in the warm spring sunshine. Her dogwood tree in the corner of the back yard, dormant for 20 years, has suddenly joyfully blossomed, celebrating its aliveness with a profusion of delicate white flowers. In the past 2 weeks, I’ve walked every morning through verdant paths and up and down steep inclines, feasting my eyes on the lushly rolling hills and breathing in the citrusy fragrance of orange and lemon trees that line flower-filled gardens. My inner landscape is shifting and settling, gently being nourished along with the earth’s seasonal renewal; it’s what I came here for.
Nourishment comes in different shapes for everyone and it has a variety of moods. For me, it means rest: slowing down my pace, giving myself time to breathe, living each moment mindfully. It has no structure or form and looks like a wide, open space that flows, extends and blends into tranquility and solitude. Its mood is mostly peace and joy with pockets of lightness and ease. To fully experience it, I’ve declared the rest of the year off from work. That doesn’t mean I’m not doing – I think being and doing go hand in hand more often than we think. So, I will do (some learning and writing and walking, and perhaps a little bit of sightseeing while I’m at it!), I will be (mostly mindful is the intention), and along the way learn more about this ephemeral state we call life to nourish my own inner essence.
As I become more aware of how body, mind and spirit are integrated, I’m learning that an under-nourished system can make you feel like a tightly stretched rubber band – it will contract your body, clutter your mind with chatter and make you fear your emotions. It’s a state you can remain in until you choose otherwise and it will be reflected in the way that you react to the world, in the way that you show up. Any action from this out-of-balance place will be less than effective for you in an abundance of ways – at work, in relationships and with the world at large.
Declaring renewal in any way that matters to you is a step forward into a regenerative pause; nourishment is making that a continuous conscious process. It’s the fuel your system needs to be whole and complete, for your energies to be balanced so that you can truly live, not just survive. To experience nourishment in an integrated way:
Balance your physical self: It’s bodywork – inside and out. Even the Buddha chose balance over starvation during his early experiences. A stunningly detailed miniature sculpture of him at the Asian Museum of Art in San Francisco shows the difference in his body energy, from an emaciated ascetic to a vibrantly healthy being. So there’s plenty of ancient and modern advice out there that tells us how our food and exercise choices affect our physical system. Find a body practice that works for you and choose a diet that will nourish your physical self. Along with rest, nurture your body with a massage now and then. If you begin to glow, it’s working.
Discover what touches your soul: What feeds that essence within? What connects you to the vastness out there that links back to something deep inside you? Whether it’s music, art, literature, food, nature, meditation or any experience that powerfully expresses that deepest part of you…through your creation or just through being fully present to it, it’s essential to be connected to that felt sense of life’s spirit, however ephemeral it may seem. Hold it close, and you’ll never be alone.
Nurture your emotional energy: Emotions are the bridge between our minds and bodies (that’s my twist to the advice on breath Thich Nhat Hanh gives in his little gem of a book titled The Miracle of Mindfulness) and they determine how we act. Out of balance emotional energy can deplete us (and others around us) in too many ways to count. When we hold our own feelings with care, acknowledging the essential role they play in the game we’re in called life, we nourish a deep part of us that links to the wholeness we seek.
Witness your own truth: We live in an age that keeps our minds very busy absorbing information and knowledge that’s available a click away. All that “mental noise” can often be very loud; and if you are constantly drained and exhausted, your productivity and creativity will be affected. Nourish your mental energy by giving yourself the time and space to go within to experience your own truth – where wisdom resides. Where peace, stillness and awareness serve you to touch your own larger presence. Integrate with others and with life from that place. You’ll find you respond to the world very differently when you do.
Sometimes, the simplest way to begin is to make a steaming hot cup of chamomile or jasmine tea…there’s nothing like contemplating how to practice nourishment with something that’s so heartwarming. It’s always worked for me. So, pause and ponder.